17 December 2019

The Achilles heel of the virus

Gene editing has been successfully used to treat herpes


Using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, scientists managed to influence viral reservoirs. So far, it is assumed that the technology will be applied to herpes locally.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School using the CRISPR-Cas9 genomic editing technology were able to destroy "sleeping" copies of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) for the first time. This is reported by the press release of Herpes' Achilles' Heel

Article by Oh et al. Herpesviral lytic gene functions render the viral genome susceptible to novel editing by CRISPR/Cas9 published in the journal eLife – VM.

Experiments were conducted on infected fibroblasts (a type of connective tissue cells of the body), and scientists are satisfied with the results. Now they plan to learn how to deliver gene therapy to neurons. It is in them that HSV hides from the immune system.

If earlier they knew how to cope with the actively multiplying herpes simplex virus (it is available for the action of drugs), now it is the "sleeping" copies that have been eliminated. 

Scientists also do not exclude that this type of treatment will be used locally, for example, exclusively for editing the genes of epithelial cells in the oral cavity, eyes or genitals. In their opinion, this will not only avoid unnecessary non-targeted effects from the use of CRISPR–Cas9 (errors in the DNA of cells that occur during genomic editing), but will also give the desired effect - for example, in the case of corneal damage, a person will be able to avoid the development of blindness.

The herpes simplex virus is a lifelong infection that, as a rule, manifests itself by periodically occurring painful rashes on the mucous membranes of the lips or genitals. According to the World Health Organization, more than two-thirds of people in the world live with HSV. In newborns and people with immunodeficiency, the disease can be particularly severe. At the same time, there is no effective treatment for the herpes simplex virus yet. Antiviral drugs can only alleviate the symptoms of the disease, and not remove the cause itself.

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